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March 14, 2014

UUP disputes claims in SED press release on edTPA

– Several statements by State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. regarding the edTPA, a new high-stakes teacher certification requirement, in a SED press release are misleading, according to United University Professions, the union representing academic and professional faculty at the State University of New York.

UUP is also calling for the immediate removal of edTPA as a high-stakes teacher certification requirement.

In the March 12 release, “Regents Support Teacher `Bar Exam’ Say More Rigorous Certification Process Will Help Students,” Commissioner King claims that the Board of Regents began the initiative to implement new teacher certification exams in 2009 and that New York state’s teacher education programs have had ample time to prepare students for the edTPA.

UUP contends the commissioner’s statements are misleading and presented the following facts:

        • SED adopted the edTPA requirement in 2012. Handbooks from the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE)—which developed the edTPA assessment—were not made widely available for teacher educators until October 2012. Final handbooks were not available in some subject areas until fall 2013.
        • Teacher education faculty at public and private colleges across the state has scrambled to interpret and apply information in the edTPA handbooks to help students prepare for the edTPA. These guides contain poorly worded and unclear statements; many faculty members have complained that SED has not provided clear and timely responses to their questions.
        • Some campuses participated in national edTPA pilot studies in spring 2013, and encountered substantial problems that needed to be remedied to successfully prepare students for the edTPA. Many of these problems still haven’t been addressed by SED.

“SED has consistently failed to meet its own deadlines to provide crucial data and clear instructions and directives regarding the edTPA to teacher educators,” said UUP President Fred Kowal. “Yet, Commissioner King has pushed this under-tested initiative forward, despite a SED-predicted 40 percent failure rate for 2014 graduates taking the edTPA.”

“It is erroneous and disingenuous for the Board of Regents to compare the edTPA to the bar exam or any type of professional licensing exam,” said UUP Vice President for Academics Jamie Dangler. “Lawyers and other professionals who must pass such exams are not subjected to these tests before completing the appropriate educational program and clinical training. The same cannot be said for student teachers who are being forced to take the edTPA prematurely.”

The edTPA has not been fully tested in some subject areas. For example, there is no edTPA assessment information for Library Specialist program students. SED also refused requests from faculty to consider delaying implementation of the edTPA, despite the lack of benchmarking/supportive resources to prepare students for the certification requirement.

Students are being tested on the edTPA before they have completed the training to prepare them for the test. To receive their edTPA scores before the end of the semester, student teachers must start the edTPA within two to three weeks of starting a seven-week student teaching placement. The edTPA must be submitted electronically to Pearson, Inc.—the private corporation that scores the edTPA.

Race to the top

In its release, SED revealed that $11.5 million in Race to the Top funds has been spent “to help education institutions transition to the new requirements.”

In reality, only a fraction of those dollars were spent to aid colleges and universities in the transition to edTPA requirements. Race to the Top funds were also used to fund implementation of the Common Core Standards, clinically rich teacher preparation, and teacher and principal evaluations.

SED must be held accountable for any Race to the Top dollars it spends. SED’s own figures show that as many as 40 percent of students who take the edTPA in 2014 are expected to fail. Surely, such a high failure rate indicates that SED’s edTPA implementation timeline has undermined effective use of these funds.

Students, faculty and administrators have invested countless hours of additional work time to understand, decipher, and prepare to meet edTPA requirements. Yet, SED’s numerous shortcomings—including failing to provide funding, support, and most importantly, enough time—necessary for a smooth transition to edTPA—will serve to shortchange student teachers, who did not have adequate time and training to meet the new requirements.

There are two certainties that will result from SED’s flawed edTPA experiment:

        • Pearson, Inc. will make millions of dollars from their monopoly over this dysfunctional situation; it costs students $300 for every initial edTPA taken by students, and students that fail must repay a fee to retake the test.
        • Use of the edTPA is setting New York’s future teaching students up to fail. SUNY produces nearly 5,000 teachers every year. More than 100 degree-bearing teacher preparation programs are in operation at New York colleges and universities; fifteen SUNY campuses offer extensive teacher education programs.

“UUP strongly supports a rigorous evaluation of student teachers before they are certified to teach in New York,” said Kowal. “But we do not support this fundamentally flawed process of rolling out an assessment without serious response to the concerns that professional educators have consistently voiced to SED. Students have been set up for failure.”

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 37,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.


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